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There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.
Italy’s largest island, Sicily, has a wine producing history that can put most other European regions to shame. It was producing quality wines before the days of the Roman empire, and even the Ancient Greeks were not the first to cultivate vines on the island. For as long as anyone knows, the key grape varietal of Sicily has been Nero d’Avola, the beautiful, deep blue skinned grape which produces the region’s characterful, powerful red wines. While in the past, Nero d’Avola was mainly used as a blending grape, due to its deep color and intensely full body, it is today being increasingly celebrated as a single varietal wine grape, and is perfect for those who like their wines boisterous, loud and strong.
Nero d’Avola is grown pretty much everywhere on Sicily, as demand for wines made from this grape have never been higher. Despite its power and body, it is quite a versatile grape - it can be aged in oak barrels, which produces a dense and dark wine which puts its intense characteristics to good use, but it is also often drunk quite young, which allows its jammy, plummy character to come forward. It is also used to make rose wines in some appellations of Sicily, demonstrating a softer side to this otherwise heavy, deeply flavorful grape.
As historically one of the most important regions in the world regarding trade and experimentation, it comes as no surprise to discover that Veneto has always been a well respected and innovative wine region. This area of north-easterly area of Italy benefits greatly from a continental climate tempered by the Alps, and plenty of influence from the Germanic countries it is near to. Veneto is most commonly associated with beautifully elegant white wines, such as those of Soave, and has over ninety thousand hectares under vine. Impressively, within that area, over a third of the vineyards in the Veneto region have been granted official AOC status, and many of the sub-regions and appellations of Veneto have gone on to be world-famous in regards to quality. One such example is Valpolicella, where some of Italy's finest and most complex red wines are produced.